Okra is often used as a binding agent in stews and soups, making the meal more substantial and satisfying. Over time, the vegetable has become a staple in soul food items not only because of its practicality but also for its sustenance.

This is a meaningful metaphor that entrepreneurial couple Anthony and Janique Edwards used to power EatOkra, their mobile directory for Black-owned stores and restaurants.

Launched in 2016, the Edwards found themselves creating a solution for a need they recognized upon relocating to Brooklyn not too long before that.

“We moved into an apartment that didn’t have appliances, and the ones we had coming were on back order, so Anthony and I were eating out a lot,” Janique explained, also pointing out they wanted to patronize Black businesses but they were hard to find. After running the idea of starting an app that serves as a guide for those looking for Black-owned food brands by her husband, the couple set the wheels in motion.

“Neither of us had any entrepreneurial experience, but we knew this was something we were called to do,” said Anthony, who works as a software developer, and Janique is an analyst with the Department of Homeland Security.

For months, Anthony said he spent about 20 to 30 hours a week working on creating the app in addition to working his full-time job.

“It took about seven months to get the first version out, and then as soon as we put it out there into the world, into the wild, we started getting immediate responses, which kind of gave us that, like, “Oh, okay, so there’s more people kind of trying to look for, find and support Black businesses, too. So we just kept on iterating, and now we the EatOkra platform of today.”

To date, the app boasts an online community of more than 350,000 users and enjoys a 5-star rating in the Apple App Store.

They were also a recipient of the 2021 App Store Award which recognizes the best apps that tap into personal passions, discover creative outlets, connect with new people and experiences, and simply have fun. 

“It felt good to know we’re being respected and people are aware of what we’re doing,” Anthony said. “They only give this award to one of 15 people, 15 companies, and we won under the ‘connection’ category, which is what our mission is all about. Okra is used to help complete meals, thicken them up and connect the ingredients. That’s what we’re doing this for–connecting people through food.”